‘Beauty will save the world, and people too.’ But is beauty enough to fight the Camorra, the notorious crime syndicate? This is the problem facing the main characters in Edoardo Leo’s recent comedy film ‘Noi e la Giulia’. Recently screened at the Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green by CinemaItaliaUK, it tells a funny and sarcastic tale of what happens when the mafia knocks at your door.
This situation is the result of three middle aged men, Diego, Fausto, and Claudio (Luca Argentero, Edoardo Leo, and Stefano Fresi), who, in their unemployment, decide to restore an old farmhouse into a guesthouse. The three men are joined by a 50-year-old fanatic and a pregnant woman as they venture to follow through on their dreams. But they soon get an unpleasant visit from Camorrista Vito (Carlo Buccirosso) to collect the pizzo (a regular ‘protection’ payment), due to the farm being on mafia land. Vito arrives in his beloved Alfa Romeo Giulia, revealing the titular Giulia not to be a person, but a car. Thereafter, a tragicomic series of events take place with all the characters bringing with them their differing circumstances, opinions and prejudices: Sergio, a fanatic communist, Fausto, a racist showman, and Claudio, a victim of Italy’s financial woes.
Thus, Edoardo Leo introduces audiences to various serious Italian themes through comedy, supplementing the core theme of friendship. Personal failures are blended with issues Italy has been facing for years, including the mafie, loss of values and unemployment. As Fausto says in the film, describing an awful state of affairs for many companies and people in Italy: “Here’s the simple truth: you have to fire a pregnant woman, not hire her!”
Although they are all ‘losers’, the ensemble all believe in second chances and a new life. They want to find in the countryside what their jobs and chaotic city lives didn’t give them. Even the Camorra people are shown with a human side and often not happy with what they have to do.
The film tries to mock mafia highlighting how these criminals can be ridiculous too. The veil of worship that mafia has created for many years has to be broken, and it is possible to laugh at the mafia, rather than simply downplay it.
At the end of the film the five friends decide to flee the guest-house and the Camorrista, however, while driving away Diego stops the car in the middle of the street. The group smile at each other and they seem happy, but the viewer doesn’t know whether they go back or not. We’d like to think that they will not give up and will fight for their rights because legal institutions have the power. They just cannot abandon their dreams and let illegality win once again. But what would we do if we were them?